Mersin Beaches: Some of Turkey’s Finest
Set along the Eastern Mediterranean shores of Turkey, Mersin has an extensive undeveloped coastline that expands to the west from the center of the city. Mersin is rapidly growing city with more than a million people. Traditional agriculture, modern industry and tourism all manage to thrive in the area. The surrounding area has a number of amazing Mediterranean beaches. An astounding 10 Turkish beaches in Mersin were awarded blue flags this year, 2017. To enjoy the Mersin beaches you obviously need to get out of the city. Travel about an hour along the coast and you will find the pristine water that is associated with blue flag beaches.
Mersin’s nickname within Turkey is the “Pearl of the Mediterranean”
In addition to being a one of the busier cities of Turkey, Mersin is also a provincial capital. Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, is the other town. The surrounding beach areas feature the slow pace of the Mediterranean Sea has induced for millennia. Daily life increases to a frenetic speed in Mersin, with crowded shopping districts and market places always on the go. The Port of Mersin is the country’s second largest port after Ambarli, near Istanbul. A ferry connects the port of Mersin to Cyprus. By any measure, this coast is an ancient land. Since the 9th millennium BC, it has been inhabited.
Where is Mersin? 36°81′N 34°64′E
Unscripted beach vacations to Turkey
At the moment, the Mersin beaches are not as well known and visited as Aegean or neighboring Antalya coastal towns. Local Turks are visiting these undeveloped stretches of beach for vacations. Their numbers are increasing rapidly with the introduction of air conditioning! If you can manage a simple place for a holiday, this is worth considering. Don’t forget to take into consideration, the famous Turkish hospitality.
Right off the coast are the Taurus Mountains and mineral springs with healing powers. The hills can be a great getaway from the summer heat and high humidity found on the coast. Inlets, little islands, and bays are widely found to Mersin’s west. This is mega yacht country when the temperatures start to boil.
[pullquote]The geographer Strabo, described the region as being divided into “Rugged Cilicia” and “Flat Cilicia”[/pullquote]
This coastline was named after either an Assyrian or Phoenician prince that settled here in antiquity. Mersin was a part of Cilicia, Asia Minor’s south coastal region. Cilicia existed as a political entity from the time of the Hittites until the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia during the late Byzantine Empire.
Historically, the area was of paramount strategic importance. All trade from Mesopotamia and Syria went over the mountains and passed through the Cilician Gates, or Gülek Pass, onto central Anatolia (modern Turkey). For millennia, the Cilician Gates have been a major military and commercial artery. A narrow gauge railway was constructed through them, early in the 20th century, while a highway now passes through.
[pullquote]During the American Civil War, the region became a major supplier of cotton to make up for the high demand due to shortage. Railroads were extended to Mersin in 1866 from where cotton was exported by sea, and the city developed into a major trade center.[/pullquote]
The Mersin entrance to the Pass is one of the oldest fortified settlements in the world (4500 BC). The pathway was intended for mules and camels, not 18 wheelers. The route has been used by Crusaders, Greeks, Mongols, Romans, Hittites and even Alexander the Great. The journey along the path of 110 miles is mentioned by Saint Paul, “dangers from rivers” and “dangers from robbers” (2 Cor. 11:26).
Wild Beaches in Turkey
The coast and its sheltered coves and inlets were a “haven for pirates”. Eventually the pirates were subdued by Pompey and the Roman Empire in 67BC. The local culture is a hodgepodge of civilizations, since Mersin has literally been a crossroads for thousands of years.
“a haven for pirates”
Later in the Middle Ages, Venetian and Genoese merchants established outposts here. The area was surrounded by forests and had no large cities. Over the years, the timber was used by various empires for their own uses.
Nearly 90% of the land mass here is mountain. There are a many passes through the Taurus mountains to central Turkey. Some of the peaks are over 10,000 feet. Small plains and meadows are frequently found from 2000 to 4000 feet.
If holiday makers enjoying their beach vacations in Mersin look up for a moment, they will see the Taurus mountains’ snow capped peaks. A fascinating juxtaposition no doubt. Caught between the mountaintops and coast are orchards, pine forests, gardens and meadows.
At sea level, there are many areas of flat land along the coastal strip perfectly suited to farming. The soil is quite fertile, having run off from the mountains and brought down by streams and rivers. These rivers and streams lead to a number of lakes and reservoirs or directly to the Mediterranean. Mersin has 200 miles of sandy beaches on the Mediterranean.
Along the beaches of Mersin, there is the standard climate, boiling hot in the summer and wet in the winter. Flooding is a problem in winter after the frequent heavy rains. It does not snow on the coast, but it is visible on the surrounding mountains.
The Mediterranean historian, Fernand Braudel, wrote the following, “What is the Mediterranean? A thousand and one things, all together. Not just one kind of scenery, but innumerable sceneries. Not just one sea, but many seas one after the other. Not just one civilization, but many civilizations one on top of the other.”
Mersin’s plains produce Turkey’s best orange and lemon trees and a vast number of vineyards grow up into the sides of the mountains. Today, Yörük nomads and their herds still travel between their mountain abodes and coastal areas as they have for centuries. Gradually, the Yörük are exchanging their camels for trucks. They are Turkey’s equivalent to snowbirds and travel the Taurus Mountains with the seasons.
As the city rapidly modernizes, the Metropolitan Municipality is busy improving the sea front promenade. Parks, statues and palm trees have been installed in posh neighborhoods like Çamlıbel and Pozcu making the areas more amenable to kicking back with an espresso. These communities have many shops and established restaurants. Arcades and narrow streets maze throughout Mersin’s city center. The old quarter features a noteworthy fish market as well.
If you travel to Mersin for the beaches, you will not be disappointed in the local cuisine. It’s famous and available throughout the country. A few of the notable dishes include:
• Ciğer kebap, (liver on mangal), typically served on lavaş with an assortment of meze at 12 skewers at a time,
• Tantuni, a hot lavaş wrap consisting of julienned lamb stir-fried on a sac on a hint of cottonseed oil,
• Bumbar, lamb intestines filled with a mixture of rice, meat and pistachios, that are served either grilled or steamed,
• Cezerye, a lokum made of sweet carrots, covered in ground pistachios or coconuts,
• Karsambaç, peeled ice, (or even snow) served with a topping of pekmez or honey,
• Künefe, a wood-oven baked dessert based on a mixture of cheese and pastry; famous all throughout the Levant,
• Kerebiç, a shortbread filled with pistachio paste, also famous throughout the Levant,
• Şalgam suyu, a beverage made of fermented red carrots, very popular in Southern Turkey.
Getting to the Mersin Beaches
A short drive of about 45 minutes from the city is required to get to the first Mersin beach vacation destination in Erdemli. Great beach resort towns continue on the coast until the border of Antalya, some 175 km further. It is a wonderful area that is waiting to be explored and enjoyed. Currently, it is still undeveloped and its future undecided. However, you can expect to see many yachts plying the waters in the summer months.
Currently, “Erdemli is now attracting investment in infrastructure to develop a tourist industry.” Once the first town goes, the rest of the beach towns will follow like dominos. The coastal district of Erdemli is forested. The endangered Mediterranean monk seal lives in the waters of the area. Ankara’s Middle East Technical University monitors the monk seals at their local Institute of Marine Sciences grad school.
The best blue flag beaches in the Mersin area are in the Silifke district. Silifke is both a district and a town in Turkey’s south-central Mersin Province (80 km west of the city of Mersin). The most popular public beaches are Tasucu and Susanoglu. The Maiden’s Castle is another reasonably popular beach in the area.
With the dramatic Taurus mountains growing to altitude in back of this enchanting shoreline, it seems more than reasonable that the Mersin beach area will explode in popularity. Possibly over-billed as a rising star in world tourism, these long Turkish beaches are, at the very least, scenic with plenty of delightful inlets.
Fish is abundant as well as most delicious in this region and in the Mersin fish market you will find inexpensive fish restaurants which are really enjoyable for those who love fish and “Raki” or wine.
In order to swim in clean water you need to get out of town, perhaps an hour along the coast. The beaches at Kızkalesi, Ayaş, Susanoğlu (app. 50–70 km west) are popular with families while young people prefer Akyar, Yapraklı koy, Narlıkuyu or quieter bays along the coast, some of which are very attractive indeed.
Mersin’s Blue Flag Beaches
In 2017, Mersin was honored with 10 blue flag beaches. This is a boon for the growing tourism industry. All of the beaches are easily accessible from Mersin on a hot summer day.
• Anemurion Otel, Bozyazi
• Altin Orfoz Otel, Silifke
• Intermot Bogsak Motel, Silifke
• Kilikya Otel, Erdemli
• Liparis Resort Otel, Erdemli
• Mediterranean Otel, Silifke
• Maiden’s Castle Public Beach, Erdemli
• Olbios Marina Resort Otel, Erdemli
• Pine Park Holiday Club, Silifke
• Ulu Resort Otel, Gulnar